Walker administration abruptly fires Alaska State Parks director

JUNEAU — Alaska State Parks director Ben Ellis was fired Thursday.

Ellis, appointed in 2011 by former Gov. Sean Parnell's administration, was held over by Parnell's successor, Bill Walker.

But he was dismissed by Walker's administration Thursday, "effective immediately," according to a Friday morning email to members of two state trails advisory boards.

Ellis, reached by phone Friday, declined to comment.

Elizabeth Bluemink, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which houses the state parks division, said officials were "very grateful" for Ellis' six years of service and "his advocacy for Alaska's state parks."

Deputy Parks director Matt Wedeking has been named acting director, Bluemink said.

The state parks budget has been cut sharply in the past two years, from $17 million in 2015 to $15.3 million last year. One initiative developed under Ellis to raise cash was the sale of Alaska parks-themed apparel, including limited-edition T-shirts.

The parks division is set to defend its budget next week in a hearing before a House subcommittee.

Nathaniel Herz

Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He’s been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at ADN and Alaska Public Media. He’s reported around the state and loves cross-country skiing.